radhardened: (on the metro)
Personal privacy—and specifically home address privacy—with regard to amateur radio licensure is an issue that has been stewing in the back of my mind for a while. When you acquire an amateur radio license in the United States, personal information including your full legal name, home address, and of course call sign are made part of the public record by the FCC. This has always been the case as far as I know, but with online access to these public records, anyone can go to QRZ.COM to find, e.g., all the licensed hams in a given zip code, or the name and address of a ham given her call sign, or the call sign and address of a ham given part of her name.

I'm not objecting to this information being public necessarily, but I've noticed many hams displaying their call signs (if not their full names) in ways that make me wonder whether they realize how much information they're sharing. Would you post your full name and home address on a public internet forum or mailing list? Wear it on a baseball cap? Have it printed on a bumper sticker on your car? Tell it to a random stranger you've just run across? These are places I've seen or heard people sharing their call signs (substituting "license plate" for "bumper sticker"). Indeed, in the culture of amateur radio it is expected that a ham shares her call sign in nearly all communications contexts, not only over the air but also in person and on the Internet. No doubt many people don't consider their full name or home address to be private information. In some sense when you apply for an amateur radio license you're agreeing to give up that privacy in return for the privilege of operating a licensed amateur radio station, but I wonder how many people realize that. I didn't consider it when I was a teenager applying for a license.

I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on this subject.
radhardened: (chillin' computer)
This summer will mark the 15th anniversary of my getting my amateur radio technician-class license. But I haven't done much with it over the years. As a high school senior I used it for contingency communication with my parents when I drove to the university ~2 hours away to visit my boyfriend, especially when the roads were snowy. I completed ARRL's online introductory Amateur Radio Emergency Communications course a few years ago. I got a handheld VHF/UHF yagi antenna for working amateur radio satellites and even wrote a simple python web application to tell me when those satellites would be making promising passes over my part of the sky. I managed to listen in on the voice traffic for a few AO-51 passes, but I never made any contacts myself, satellite-mediated or not, and the web app broke in upgraded versions of python.1 So my gear has been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. A few months ago I looked around for transmitter hunting (a.k.a. fox hunting) activities in my area but found none.

But recently a couple of things are renewing my interest in amateur radio. The first is the great how-to videos by Diana Eng, fashion nerd, hacker, maker, and ham radio ambassador. Just from an attracting-women-to-amateur-radio public relations standpoint, she's a breath of fresh air next to the stale and patronizing efforts like this audio (mp3) public service announcement by ARRL. She is awesome.

Also, I'm joining HacDC in an entry into Hackerspaces in Space2, a high-altitude ballooning contest that will take place this summer. Points will be awarded for minimizing cost, mass, and recovery time. The amateur radio connection is that we may use APRS for telemetering the position of our balloon. Incidentally, HacDC's club station callsign is KB3TEA, which is awesome.

For what it's worth, I've got a copy of Kristen Haring's book Ham Radio's Technical Culture sitting on my to-read bookshelf. I'm not familiar with the author, but I'm interested to read her perspective on the topic. Meanwhile, I'm joining my local ham radio club, so I'm sure I'll be forming my own perspective soon.

1 I just discovered HamSatDroid for my Android phone, which looks quite nice. I wish it included, e.g., AO-51's operating modes, but maybe I can add that myself if I can convince the operations group to publish the schedule of operating modes in a parser-friendly format.

2 No, not really in space. But near space.

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